Identities in context: How social class shapes inequalities in education

Matthew J. Easterbrook*, Ian R. Hadden, Marlon Nieuwenhuis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
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Educational inequalities between social classes are large and persistent in the UK. Students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds have much lower attainment and engage less with education than their peers from advantaged backgrounds. Although structural factors contribute significantly to these inequalities, social psychological processes also play a crucial but less visible role. We draw on the social identity approach to propose a new model of how social and cultural factors in the local educational context shape the meaning of people’s social class identities in ways that create and sustain inequalities. Our identities-in-context model brings into focus educational contexts in which lower-class people are expected to perform badly, are not well represented in high-status educational roles or institutions, and are negatively disposed toward education. We argue that, for lower-class people, these contexts ignite a sense of social identity threat and incompatibility between their background and doing well in education. These, in turn, lead to poorer educational outcomes. We propose ways in which our model can be used to inform social psychological interventions that aim to reduce educational inequalities between social classes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Social Psychology of Inequality
EditorsJolanda Jetten, Kim Peters
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9783030288563
ISBN (Print)9783030288556
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019

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